The Midnight Queen (Chapter 5, page 2 of 9)


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Chapter 5

Love is not a plant that requires time to flourish, but is quite capable
of springing up like the gourd of Jonah full grown in a moment. Our
young friend, Sir Norman, had not been aware of the existence of the
object of his affections for a much longer space than two hours and
a half, yet he had already got to such a pitch, that if he did not
speedily find her, he felt he would do something so desperate as to
shake society to its utmost foundations. The very mystery of the affair
spurred him on, and the romantic way in which she had been found, saved,
and disappeared, threw such a halo of interest round her, that he was
inclined to think sometimes she was nothing but a shining vision from
another world. Those dark, splendid eyes; that lovely marblelike face;
those wavy ebon tresses; that exquisitely exquisite figure; yes, he felt
they were all a great deal too perfect for this imperfect and wicked
world. Six Norman was in a very bad way, beyond doubt, but no worse than
millions of young men before and after him; and he heaved a great many
profound sighs, and drank a great many glasses of sack, and came to the
sorrowful conclusion that Dame Fortune was a malicious jade, inclined to
poke fun at his best affections, and make a shuttlecock of his heart
for the rest of his life. He thought, too, of Count L'Estrange; and the
longer he thought, the more he became convinced that he knew him well,
and had met him often. But where? He racked his brain until, between
love, Leoline, and the count, he got that delicate organ into such a
maze of bewilderment and distraction, that he felt he would be a case
of congestion, shortly, if he did not give it up. That the count's
voice was not the only thing about him assumed, he was positive; and he
mentally called over the muster-roll of his past friends, who spent half
their time at Whitehall, and the other half going through the streets,
making love to the honest citizens' pretty wives and daughters; but
none of them answered to Count L'Estrange. He could scarcely be a
foreigner--he spoke English with too perfect an accent to be that; and
then he knew him, Sir Norman, as if he had been his brother. In short,
there was no use driving himself insane trying to read so unreadable
a riddle; and inwardly consigning the mysterious count to Old Nick, he
swallowed another glass of sack, and quit thinking about him.

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